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he old fashioned wall posters that featured TV and movie stars along with rock bands and that highlighted generations of teen-age bedrooms have been overshadowed, if not replaced, by fan sites on the Internet. There are untold tens (hundreds?) of thousands of them, ranging from amateur idol worship to sophisticated collections of information, photos and often video clips of the person, or shows being lionized.

For the most part, fan sites can upload photos and small clips from films under the “fair use” policy. Generally speaking, fair use is a court-defined copyright principle based on the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary and criticism. Short clips or stills of a program or film are usually covered under fair use.

Turning Fandom into Big Business

Like most everything else on the Internet, people are finding ways to make money from the phenomenon. There are indexes of TV fan sites that are peppered with advertising. Sites for the soap opera stars provide particularly potent advertising opportunities. There are “official” and unofficial sites dedicated to public figures in the entertainment world. Many of the unofficial sites have advertising as well, while the official sites often peddle memorabilia. For that matter, so do the unofficial sites.

Any Press is Good Press

What the entertainment industry has learned is that, generally, fan sites have a positive impact on the entertainer or entertainers featured. The old adage about negative news coverage is “Print anything you want about me, just spell my name properly.” In other words, any coverage is good coverage, any exposure is good exposure. The really short version is “there’s no bad press.”

For television, this is particularly important with regard to the premieres of new shows and the launch of new seasons. Web fan sites provide the opportunity for the TV networks to premiere character outlines and even selected promotional clips. This was previously the exclusive domain of morning news programs and entertainment news magazines like Entertainment Tonight.

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